Tony Blair supports idea of ‘for-profit’ state schools

The BBC is reporting that Tony Blair has claimed changing the education system is “one of the most difficult things” for a government but supported the idea of the private sector running “for-profit” state schools.

…Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum, Mr Blair said that when he was in office there had been a “rhythm” to the government’s attempts to push through changes in education.

“When you first propose it, people tell you it’s a terrible thing. When you’re doing it, it’s hell, and after you’ve done it, you wish you’d done more of it.”

Mr Blair told the education conference that he had found widespread support for the principle of education reform, but “not when the reform comes to them”.

He called for a greater range of groups to be involved in running schools and for greater use of technology.

And he did not rule out the idea of using the private sector to run for-profit schools if they “can come in and run schools effectively”.

He said that the public sector is “not good at innovating” and would benefit from a more diverse range of partners to experiment with different ways of delivering education.

“Nothing should stand in the way” of trying to improve schools, he said.

And he called on the current education ministers to “scour the world” for the ideas that worked best.

“Governments always make the mistake of thinking their problems are unique,” he said…

More at: Education system ‘toughest to reform’ – Tony Blair


Interesting comments from Tony Blair that sound, perhaps surprisingly, far more radical than anything we hear from the current Conservative administration (although it’s not clear if the comments on for-profit schools was aimed at this country or elsewhere).

What do you make of them?

Please give us your reactions and feedback in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. Nairb1

    “Governments always make the mistake of thinking their problems are unique,” he said…
    And governments always make the mistake of thinking their whims and fancies will provide the solution. Scouring ‘the world for the ideas that worked best’ is a classic example, hence the piecemeal hotchpotch of ‘good ideas’ which has passed for education policy for years.

  2. JudithBosavern

    SchoolsImprove Once again Blair trashes the public sector which Labour should be supporting. Guess he’s not Labour now

  3. JudithBosavern

    SchoolsImprove Once again Blair trashes the public sector which Labour should be supporting. Guess he’s not Labour now

  4. wasateacher

    Blair just can’t shut up, can he?  He has earned his millions – he is not a statesman (look at the middle east).  Why doesn’t he get an allotment to keep him occupied.

    When he got into power he ratted on everything he said in order to get the leadership of the Labour Party and he has continued to distort things ever since.

  5. JudithBosavern SchoolsImprove Was he ever?  A cynic might say that in the late 1990s, a young man keen to get on in politics would have picked the party most likely to win.  At that time it was Labour.  Joining the Tories would have kept our ambitious man out of politics for a long time.  He would then no longer be young – there would be younger and equally ambitious would-be leaders snapping at his heels.
    But once in power his real ideology became apparent – extend privatisation, light-touch regulation of banks and starting the process of fragmenting the education system in England thereby paving the way for schools to be run for profit.

  6. ‘When Tony Blair introduced academies, officials
    and the most radical ministers (including Lord Adonis and John Hutton) knew
    that allowing profit would provide a significant boost to the market, but considered
    the politics unworkable.’
    This is from a Policy Exchange report ‘Blocking the Best’ (page 8) published shortly before the 2010 election.
    That was then.  This is now – and Blair must think the politics of for-profit schools are no longer ‘unworkable’.  Hence the academy programme.  As Policy Exchange made clear, there was no law preventing state schools being run for profit.  All that was needed was for them to become ‘independent’ while still being taxpayer funded.  Academies and free schools are technically ‘independent’ schools. Some academy trusts are merely charitable arms of for-profit companies (eg Collaborative Learning Trust is linked to Edison Learning; Learning Schools Trust to Kunskapsskollen; IES Breckland is run by IES) and many more bung contracts to firms connected to trustees or their relatives.
    No wonder Gove was a fan of Blair.

  7. ROTSchools

    SchoolsImprove Yes, Tony was all for “public sector reform” which roughly translates as “get the private sector in”.

  8. ptc23

    SchoolsImprove Tells ministers to “scour the world for ideas”. So that’s another taxi ride to Eton for Nick Gibb.

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